Ta Prohm temple, Cambodia

10 Feb, 2017 - Tanushree Kulkarni

Every morning in Siem Reap, tuk-tuks brimming with tourists and cameras hasten towards Angkor Wat to witness the glorious sunrise. The hustle bustle, sound of clicks accompany the rising sun and changing hues of the sky. A few kilometres away from the scene, a moss-covered monument is greeted with the first rays of the sun through thick foliage in an almost theatrical fashion. Ta Prohm, built during the reign of Jayavarmana VII in 1186, is tucked away in the heart of the forest, devoured by overgrown roots and vegetation. The emptiness and solace, which engulfs the temple make a visit to this ancient Angkor site an introspective excursion.

The entrance is through a time-worn gateway to the west, much like other Angkorian temples. A long walkway through the forest is characterized by trees, savage monkeys (hold on to those edibles) and a soothing music. The music is played by a calm yet gleeful bunch of students from the Kampot Traditional Music School who perform on their fiddles, drums and cymbals and add to the mysticism of the site. As you approach the main temple you notice the snake like roots of an age-old Banyan tree covering the restored walls of the temple. The partial reconstruction of the site is a glimpse of what it might have been like.

The temple body itself is a combination of colonnades and courtyards arranged in a labyrinthine creating several discreet alleys, covered in muscular tree roots jutting out of the structure. Intricately carved stone reliefs are a break from the greenery and act as narratives of possible soirees that featured ravishing apsaras, to which a raised platform near the entrance bears witness. Several other reliefs adorn the entrances to different sections of the temple obstructed by awe-stuck tourists staring into the vastness of the mystifying complex.

Ta Prohm is a large complex imbued in years of seclusion and abandonment. Take it in slowly and immerse in the atmosphere as the crowds ebb and flow. Those prone to daydreams can expect to take a little longer. Even though the wet season in Cambodia is avoided by most tourists, a visit to Ta Prohm during these months is most fulfilling as the monsoon colors the complex in several shades of green and wildflower blossoms. Add to this lesser crowd and you have yourself the perfect detox day trip.

Topic: Travel